Aizawa is one of the cleverest, most underrated characters in BnHA, and I’m not just saying that because he’s voiced by Suwabe and therefore immediately on Lethey’s Love List. This is a guy that sort of drags himself through life, doing good deeds without seemingly getting a lot of satisfaction from it. He’s almost an anti-hero even though he’s more pure than several of the other characters in the series. So let’s break him down.
Out of the Limelight
Aizawa is an ‘underground’ hero. He avoids the media, he stays out of all the flashy stuff and really, the only reason people like Izuku know his name is because, well, Izuku is a massive nerd.
As a hero, but also personality-wise, Aizawa is a clear foil for All Might. One is always smiling, embracing fame to become a symbol of peace that stops villains everywhere from even wanting to start shit. He’s super flashy, cares deeply about appearance and also he’s just… huge and muscular.
Eraserhead, meanwhile, has a resting bitch face, looks like he hasn’t showered in days, wears basic black pyjamas wherever he goes and he shrinks back from attention like a vampire seeing the first rays of the sun.
This contrast extends to their fighting style. All Might is all about power and speed. He’s an all-rounder that overwhelms his opponents with a super-quirk. Meanwhile, Aizawa is an incredibly specialised hero that needs a clear strategy and an extensive knowledge of martial arts to even stand a chance. In many ways All Might is to Aizawa what Izuku is to Shinsou, someone blessed with overwhelming power and therefore hard to deal with. It’s not really that difficult to see why they don’t get along very well.
Fundamentally, though, Aizawa looks the way he does because he gives absolutely zero fucks about how he comes across. You see this when he decides to (or was forced to) make an effort after the forest camp.
He’s totally capable of looking less villainous.
Put him in a suit and he may not look like a full blown superhero, but he’s at least passable as a Japanese salaryman.
When given free reign, however, he cares not. He’s basically introduced to us as the apathetic, possibly even cruel teacher who cares little for his students. Superhero Snape. He’s grumpy, he makes them go through gruelling tests and he threatens to expel them at a moment’s notice. This turns out, of course, to be a logical ruse (he also has a really awful sense of humor).
What’s interesting about him as a character, is that as you start reading BnHA, it becomes clear that this initial idea is almost completely wrong.
For one: he carries a sleeping bag around and catches a nap at any opportunity given to him. Not because he’s lazy. But because he’s extremely sleep deprived. Because this idiot never stops working.
Aizawa appears to have very little life outside his work. We know that his room is bare, he teaches during the day and he does most of his hero-ing at night. He doesn’t appear to have much of an off switch.
That scene is a rather nice one from the later chapters. Everyone’s being called up and it’s the middle of the friggin night. Nedjire is half asleep, at the same time we see the others in their jammies. What is Aizawa doing at this ungodly hour?
Multitasking, even. On two devices. Probably planning shit.
This is the reason that man teaches from a sleeping bag. He’s trying to fit too many hours of work into a single day, and tries to somehow fit the necessary sleep in by multitasking.
How very Japanese of him.
Can we please talk about this?
Why the hell is a fully bandaged up, injured man, at work?
Dude got nearly killed on school premises. By any insurance policy in the modernized world, he should be on sick leave, watching the whole thing on tv, with a nice cup of tea and maybe some grapes or something by his side.
You can’t tell me UA has that bad of a health policy, the damn school probably has the most expensive insurance in the world. But nope, he sitting in a booth commentating. Because Yamada asked him. Please note that several of the teachers are just up in the crowd, watching the games.
They could have gotten Blood Baron or Nedzu to do it.
But no, get the workaholic who can’t even lie in bed for a day when all his bones are broken.
When I first started reading BnHA, I heartily wondered why the hell they’d put someone like that in front of a class. But again, once you get to know him, it turns out this man is a really good teacher. I certainly never had anyone pay that much attention to me and my well-being when I was in school. He understands a bunch of his kids better than they do.
See exhibit A: Bakugou.
Aizawa’s teaching style is very much a ‘hands off’ kind of thing. He doles out advice, he makes them run themselves ragged, but in a very specific sense, he also Trusts them. Even the explodey one. He has implicit faith in them, because he’s observed them.
He can almost predict them.
See exhibit B: Izuku.
He knows Izuku enough to know, for instance, that he *cannot* stop himself from being a hero. He can’t. He waded into the sludge monster to save Kacchan. He chose saving Uraraka over getting a shot at the entry exam. The forest, the kidnapping, all of it. He will choose the saving option every time.
That’s why this is such a lovely scene. It really shows how well Aizawa knows his pupils. He knows he can’t stop Izuku so he’s just kinda… going along with it.
He knows there’s no point in telling Izuku not to go. So he decides to let him, if only so he can keep an eye on him.
I mean.. Especially when it comes to these two, Aizawa is a bit of a softy? I’m sure he’d prefer the term ‘realist’ but come one. Softie.
The Reluctant Dad
Speaking of softies. BnHA has a surprisingly large amount of father figures. Maybe it’s because Izuku’s dad is absent, but the theme sort of runs through the whole thing.
The dads in this series range from the loving, supportive examples like All Might, or Bakugou’s and Jirou’s perfectly normal dads, to more tough loving guys like Gran Torino. They go all the way into the utter shit and abusive section, with Todoroki Sr.
The Big Bad is, in a rather premeditated way, a father figure to Shigaraki. Even All Might and Shigaraki himself have a rather messed up bond that mirrors some father-son elements.
But out of all of these, the most grumpy dad is doubtlessly Aizawa. This is a guy who’s been given twenty highly rambunctious kids and who Cares Deeply about them, despite his vocal assurances that he would rather be sleeping.
He then goes and adopts another one in the form of Shinsou (sort of, that might just be my wishful thinking).
It’s interesting to note that Aizawa is very much a dad of the ‘papa wolf’ variety. He will protect the shit out of these kids.
This is a guy who, as mentioned, has a very specialised fighting style that works best against small groups, for small periods of time. So obviously he jumps in the middle of a veritable army of villains to give his students a chance to escape , papa wolf style.
That bit up there where he saves Tsuyu? Despite being very nearly dead? Yeah.
He will also protect their Honour, like when he calls out the crowd on their (wrongful) estimation of Bakugou in the Uraraka fight. He will even, in a way, protect them from themselves.
I’m personally really in love with the fact that he’s aware of his role, as a teacher, an adult, a substitute father figure, but that he doesn’t particularly want it?
Like he knows he’s a teacher, and teachers/adults behave in a certain way. You see it a little here, when he brings Kouta back to relative safety. A big part of Aizawa, you see, admires the hell out of Izuku. This is the kid that surprised him. The kid that wants to be a hero so badly that he’s willing to break himself over and over again, to save people. He gets that.
But at the same time he knows that he has to try and keep Izuku in line.
And keeping Izuku in line is one hell of a job.
Definitely the part of the job that he doesn’t particularly enjoy.
Even when he’s legitimately angry.
Even when he has to play the strict one to All Might’s entirely too soft heart.
Diving straight into headcanons now. Be warned.
I’ve already talked about how Aizawa understands Shinsou in a way that Yamada, or All Might, or people like Todoroki or Bakugou could never understand. He knows what it’s like to, in a way, be weak. To be specialised.
In order for him to be a hero, he has to not only be strong, he has to be smart. I think part of the reason he appreciates Bakugou like that, is because he’s Both.
But back to the headcanons. We know nothing of Aizawa’s past (as of now, chapter 143, when I write this) but doesn’t it sort of seem like there’s some big dark secret in there? He certainly acts like he has some kind of regret.
He had to go through a particularly gruelling time to become the hero he is today. And he doesn’t even get to be the good kind of hero. He does not get shampoo commercials and adoring crowds. He gets long nights of sneaking around and being beat up, and a day job as a teacher.
What the hell for?
Thing is, he did expel a whole class. And while we’re first assuming he did it because he’s a jerk, in a way he does it to save them from what he believes is cruelty. It turns out he cares, you see, he cares an awful lot about his students.
Doesn’t that suggest some kind of deep seated issue?
We know little of Aizawa’s past, other than that he went to UA with Yamada, but his actions and his words suggest that he definitely has seen some pain. Maybe one of his hero friends died. Maybe he saw classmates fail to fulfil their dreams. Maybe one of his ex-students got hurt and he saw it as a personal fault of his. Personally, I think his motivations might lie closer to Tenya’s, with some sibling he looked up to, who failed and became his main motivation to succeed. But that’s just a theory. Either way, he’s seen failure. Maybe he’s lived it. He’s seen what it can do to a person, especially in a high stakes environment like the hero business and he appears to have made it his personal mission to stop this from happening by being the most nurturing, supportive person a grump like him could be.